Archive | February, 2011

Football: Two Singapore Players Face FIFA Ban

28 Feb

SINGAPORE: Two national footballers may be disqualified from playing for Singapore now that they've joined Medan Chiefs, a club in Indonesia not sanctioned by the Indonesian football federation.

Last week, Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan reportedly signed contracts worth nearly S$400,000 each, with the Indonesian Premier League, a breakaway from the official governing body of football in the country.

The league is also not recognised by the world governing body, FIFA.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said this could have long-term drawbacks for Shahril and Baihakki which it said can be “significant for a professional player”.

FAS president Zainudin Nordin said depending on FIFA's ruling, Shahril and Baihakki may find themselves disqualified from playing for Singapore and possibly FIFA-sanctioned leagues for a significant period of time.

He said it would have been an ideal situation if the high salaries are paid by a club sanctioned by the Football Association of Indonesia.

-CNA/wk

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Malaysia Set For Asia’s First Legoland Next Year

28 Feb

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia – Asia's first Legoland theme park is on track to open next year in southern Malaysia, its builder said, as the region goes all out to lure tourists with a series of big ticket attractions.

Earthmovers have flattened a vast expanse of oil palm-covered hills to make way for the 31-hectare Legoland Malaysia, one of the main attractions of a new city and economic zone called Iskandar Malaysia.

The park, which will offer 40 rides, shows and displays of the famous Lego toy bricks of Denmark, is just across a waterway from Singapore, which opened Southeast Asia's first Universal Studios entertainment complex in 2010.

Zainal Ashikin Muhammad, chief executive of IDR Resorts, the builder of Legoland Malaysia, said the new park will complement Universal Studios Singapore rather than compete with it for custom.

“Is there a saturation of theme parks? In this region, no. There's still a lot of growth for theme park development,” he said during a recent media tour organised by Iskandar Malaysia.

European visitor attractions operator Merlin Entertainments, whose stable includes Madame Tussauds, the London Eye and SEA LIFE, has been roped in to operate Legoland Malaysia.

When completed, Legoland Malaysia will be the sixth of its kind in the world after those in Denmark, Britain, California, Florida and Germany.

Zainal said the Malaysian version will be one of three internationally branded theme parks that will operate by 2025 in the Iskandar region, in an ambitious project covering an area three times the size of Singapore.

With these theme parks, a 50-kilometre radius spanning Singapore and Iskandar will become like Orlando, Florida, which hosts Disneyland, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, Zainal said.

“That is what we aspire to be,” Zainal told reporters.

“We have the natural resources, we have the land… This is a catalytic project.”

He said the regional market is big enough for more theme parks, despite the presence of Universal Studios in Singapore, Disneyland in Hong Kong and smaller attractions by local players.

Singapore welcomed a record 11.6 million foreign visitors last year, up 20 percent from 2009, thanks largely to the lure of its two new integrated resorts one of which has Universal Studios in its complex.

Zainal said the Legoland Malaysia project has been progressing well since they broke ground in December 2009, building over an area of bushes and plant life.

Primary infrastructure, including roads, power substations and drainage systems, is about 50-60 percent complete, he said.

Construction of the main theme park will start in March, he said, adding that of the 720 million ringgit (US$235 million) cost, 200 million ringgit in contracts have already been awarded.

The fabrication of the rides has begun overseas while the construction of the 15,000 Legoland model structures to be displayed at the park has started in Malaysia and abroad.

About 30 million Lego bricks will be used to build the model structures.

“Everything is in place,” Zainal said. “Some rides are already here but majority will start to be shipped in July or August this year.”

Siegfried Borst from Legoland Germany, who was recruited to help run the Malaysian version, told reporters it will offer the same rides and attractions available in Europe, but with an Asian touch.

The “miniland” displays will consist of Lego replicas of iconic buildings and structures in Asia, including Malaysia's Petronas Twin Towers, formerly the tallest building in the world, he said.

Because of the tropical weather, queueing areas in Legoland Malaysia will be covered, and the developer has ordered thousands of trees to be planted within the park grounds.

Borst said they are targeting at least a million visitors in the first year of operation.

“I'm pretty confident that we can live up to the standards that we have in the other Legoland parks as well,” said the 20-year veteran in the theme park business.

– AFP/ir

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Black Swan Filem Terbaik Spirit

28 Feb

SANTA MONICA, California 27 Feb. – Black Swan dinobatkan sebagai filem terbaik pada anugerah filem bebas Spirit semalam, sementara filem Britain The King’s Speech dinamakan sebagai filem asing terbaik.

Black Swan tentang kisah seorang penari balet yang mengutamakan kesempurnaan sehingga menjadikan beliau keliru dengan dirinya sendiri turut menyaksikan pengarahnya, Darren Aronofsky memenangi anugerah pengarah terbaik, sementara Natalie Portman merangkul anugerah pelakon wanita terbaik.

Filem tersebut terus meraikan kejayaan apabila memenangi kategori sinematografi terbaik pada anugerah tersebut.

Aktor James Franco yang akan mengacarakan Anugerah Oscar, mengungguli anugerah pelakon lelaki terbaik menerusi wataknya dalam filem 127 Hours.

Anugerah pelakon pembantu lelaki dan wanita terbaik masing-masing dimenangi John Hawkes dan Dale Dickey menerusi penampilan mereka dalam filem Winter’s Bone, sebuah kisah mengenai seorang remaja yang memburu bapanya, seorang pengedar dadah.

Kisah mengenai seni grafiti diarahkan Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop mendapat tepukan gemuruh apabila memenangi anugerah kategori dokumentari terbaik dan kejayaan itu dijangka berulang pada Anugerah Akademi esok.

The King’s Speech dijangka akan menggondol anugerah filem terbaik dalam Anugerah Akademi apabila menerima 11 pencalonan termasuk anugerah pelakon lelaki terbaik menerusi watak Raja George VI yang dilakonkan oleh Colin Firth.

Filem Facebook, The Social Network dan Black Swan turut disenaraikan sebagai calon filem terbaik pada anugerah berprestij itu dan Portman disebut-sebut bakal memenangi anugerah pelakon wanita terbaik. – AFP

Utusan

Nintendo Launches 3-D Console In Japan

27 Feb

TOKYO – Japan's Nintendo launched Saturday the world's first video game console with a 3-D screen that works without special glasses, a device the entertainment giant hopes will reverse its sliding fortunes.

But as the 3DS makes its debut in Japan, it will be looking for a place in an increasingly crowded gaming market.

More than 1,500 fans queued outside Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara, the hub of Tokyo's comic-book subculture, to be the first to own the machine, with many having spent the night on the streets ahead of the morning launch.

“I'm extremely excited. I can't wait to start playing it,” said Arisa Kubo, a 19-year-old nursing student who began queuing on Friday night.

“The quality has dramatically improved,” said Kubo, who tried a pre-sales demonstration of the console last month. “The screen is beautiful. 3DS is totally different from the normal DS.”

Nintendo, which for many gamers is synonymous with its “Super Mario Bros” series, is facing a raft of challenges to its one-time domination of the market.

Traditional gaming rivals such as Sony with its Playstation, and Microsoft whose XBox has been a global hit, have been joined in the fray by smartphones and tablet computers, including Apple's iPhone and iPad which have taken a chunk out of the gaming market.

Falling sales and a stubbornly strong yen are also hitting Nintendo, which saw its group net profit plunge nearly 75 percent for the nine months to December and analysts say the new console is a vital plank in the hoped-for turnaround.

“For the next five years or so, Nintendo fully expects the 3DS to act as a key pillar underlying its overall business performance,” said Jay Defibaugh, director of equity research in consumer electronics and games for MF Global FXA Securities.

“Whether 3DS ends up being a one-trick pony or gimmick will be determined by whether Nintendo and its third-party partners can deliver innovative new approaches to gameplay.”

The dual-screen 3DS, priced at 25,000 yen (US$305) will test the appetite of Nintendo's core fans and the wider market for 3D gaming, after rivals catering to what is seen as a more “serious” gaming market launched their own updates.

The 3DS ran into controversy ahead of its launch after the company warned children under the age of six should not use the gadget in 3-D mode because it could affect their eyes.

The device is entering a fast-evolving and highly competitive area of gaming technology.

Sony last year launched its PlayStation Move system, which enables users wearing special glasses to play 3-D games using wand-shaped controllers.

And in January it unveiled its latest portable touchscreen gaming console codenamed “Next Generation Portable” to succeed its PlayStation Portable device, boasting 3G mobile connectivity and Wi-Fi.

Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect system for the Xbox 360 system, which lets players use body gestures and does not require hand-held controllers, hit the market last year.

“Nintendo's competitors used to be just Sony and Microsoft, but the company now faces challenges from Samsung, Apple and providers of social-networking games,” said Yusuke Tsunoda, analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Centre.

For its latest device, “the target should be children… I believe it is difficult to make adults add the 3DS to the items that are already in their handbags at a time when more and more people use smartphones.”

Nintendo's latest machine allows the illusion of depth to be increased or decreased so that games can be played in both 2D and 3D, while built-in cameras let users take 3D pictures.

Like many smartphones it also includes an accelerometer-based motion detector, while it can connect to existing Wi-Fi networks to download additional content and exchange data with other nearby 3DS units.

Around 30 software titles will be available by June, Nintendo said.

The company reportedly plans to release around 1.5 million units in Japan in the first month in an effort to avoid the huge shortages seen with the launch of earlier versions.

The new-generation DS machine will be released in Europe and the United States in March.

– AFP/ir

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New Zealand Remembers Quake Dead As Toll Hits 146

27 Feb

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Grieving New Zealanders held church services for victims of the deadly Christchurch earthquake Sunday as the danger of falling debris frustrated efforts to recover bodies.

Only one body was pulled from the rubble overnight, bringing the death toll to 146, but police warned “we continue to believe that there are more than 200 people missing in the worst damaged parts of the city”.

With the number of fatalities from Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake steadily rising, Prime Minister John Key has warned the disaster “may be New Zealand's single most tragic event”, outstripping a 1931 quake which killed 256.

Police superintendent Russell Gibson said rescuers knew where bodies were located but could not reach them as ruined buildings in the disaster zone teetered on the brink of collapse.

“I know that they (rescuers) can see bodies that they're trying to get out, it's tragic,” he told Radio New Zealand.

Office blocks folded like packs of cards as the quake toppled entire shop frontages, tore up roads and opened huge fissures in the ground, leaving one third of the downtown area facing demolition.

No survivors have been found since Wednesday afternoon but Gibson said international rescue teams working on the worst-hit buildings insisted there was still hope.

“The commanders there, one from Great Britain and the other from Australia, were saying 'look 10 days, it's not unusual to get down and find people alive', so we're positive,” he said.

More rescue specialists from Thailand and Britain were due in the city Sunday to relieve fatigued colleagues who have been working around the clock on the grim task of scouring the debris.

The city's landmark cathedral lost its spire in the quake, entombing up to 22 people in the ruins and forcing worshippers to gather at a nearby chapel Sunday.

Anglican archbishop of Christchurch Victoria Matthews, who would normally lead Sunday prayers in the cathedral, said she wanted the quake-scarred city of 390,000 to begin the healing.

“Don't deny your grief, don't pretend that you're not traumatised,” she said.

“Accept that you have gone through some of the hardest days of your entire life but also accept that there's healing and fullness if you will work towards it,” she told Radio New Zealand.

But there was also anger in New Zealand's second largest city after a spate of looting and burglaries in the wake of the disaster. Police said one man was arrested for theft overnight.

The St John ambulance service said the latest problem was hoax callers wasting its time and resources.

“The ugly side of human nature is being revealed with hoax calls about people injured and trapped in buildings by the Canterbury earthquake,” spokesman Nicky Green said.

“It's really sad because it's wasting everyone's time.”

Scores of foreigners are among the dead and missing, many of them Asian students who were attending a language school housed in an office building that was reduced to smouldering ruins.

Police said they were making “significant progress” combing through the wreckage of the building and Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce was due to meet representatives of the language school later Sunday.

Citizens from Japan, China, the Philippines, Thailand and Korea are among more than 60 students and staff from the school who remain unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, residents struggling to cope without power, water and sewerage facilities in large parts of the city were warned of a new danger from falling rocks in the city's hills dislodged in Tuesday's seismic jolt.

More than 20 homes were evacuated in the suburb of Mount Pleasant because their houses could be in the path of boulders.

– AFP /ls

Channel News Asia

Ekin Cari Mawi?

27 Feb

EKIN cari Mawi? Apa kisah pula tu? Tak kan Mawi dah lari dari rumah kot. Bila ada orang bercerita pada Syed hal Ekin mencari Mawi, memang membuatkan Syed terkejut.

Bukan apa, risau takut-takut Mawi lari dari rumah sahaja. Yalah, muka Mawi pun dah jarang keluar surat khabar, mahu tak terkejut orang bila dapat tahu Ekin cari Mawi.

Rupa-rupanya Ekin dikatakan sedang sibuk mencari plat kereta MAW1 untuk dijadikan hadiah hari lahir kepada suaminya itu. Amboi, kelas sungguh hadiah Ekin untuk buah hatinya itu.

Bukan calang-calang orang mampu nak buat macam tu. Sebab Syed dengar cerita yang Ekin sanggup bayar berapa sahaja untuk mendapatkan plat kereta tersebut. Berapa sahaja ok!

Kalau bukan sembarangan orang, memang tak mampu nak sebut berapa sahaja. Bukan apa, kalau orang tu letak beratus ribu ringgit, pitam juga nak membayar tu.

Syed: Siapa mahu jumpa Aznil datang Carrefour Wangsa Maju, 5 Mac ini bermula pukul 4 hingga 6 petang.

Utusan

‘Burn Minister’ Man’s Case Closed

26 Feb

SINGAPORE: Police said they will not be taking any further action against a man who posted a comment on Facebook that it was time to 'burn a minister and the PAP'.

Twenty-seven-year-old Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member Abdul Malik Mohammed was arrested in August last year for posting on the social networking site that it was time to “burn Vivian Balakrishnan and the PAP”.

MediaCorp understands no further action was taken as Mr Abdul Malik’s comments were metaphorical and not to incite violence in the literal sense.

A police spokesperson told MediaCorp “after careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, and in consultation with the Attorney General's Chambers, the police will not be taking any further action” against him.

Dr Balakrishnan is the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), the ministry that organised the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

Mr Abdul Malik's posting had appeared on the 'I hate the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Organising Committee's Facebook page, following media reports of a food poisoning incident which affected 21 volunteers, last year.

Mr Abdul Malik, who was last known to be a project executive with a construction company, was arrested a week after his comments were posted.

He was later grilled by police officers on the use of the words “burn”, “rally” and “sit-down protest” in his postings.

In an email reply on Friday to MediaCorp, Mr Abdul Malik said he was relieved the case was finally over and added: “I knew that I was innocent as I had no intention to cause physical harm to anyone.

“Life went on as normal for me, because I knew I had done nothing wrong. However, there was the slight inconvenience of reporting every two weeks to the Bedok Police Station.”

He said everything happens for a reason and added: “Though I was a little worried at first, on hindsight, this case helped me raise my profile. Now, people can identify who I am, and that gives me a chance to reach out to them with SDP's message and get them to feedback their concerns to me. Overall, I am glad the case is over.”

– CNA/wk

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